Ukraine: Nizhnya Apsha

Driving along the Ukraine-Romanian border, you come to a small town called Nizhnya Apsha, expecting a simple small village deep in the Carpathian Mountains and in the middle of nowhere, just 2km from the Romanian border. But nothing is ordinary or simple about this village – this is “the richest settlement” in Ukraine. There are no one-story buildings here – only multistory palaces with 15-60 rooms, pools, greenhouses, solariums, multicast garages and other status crap. It’s beyond surreal – palaces bigger and more elaborate then some medieval fortresses in Europe line up the streets of Nizhnya Apsha. Supposedly, local residents, almost all Romanians (98%), made shitloads of money in the 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed and they started selling sunflower seeds to Russia with massive markup (at least that’s the story). In reality, almost everybody established an illegal alcohol production here, producing counterfeit European labels of cognacs, whiskies, scotches, and so on. Crossborder drug trade also came into play. Everybody got stratospherically rich with no other way to show it off except built himself/herself a palace of a house. The unspoken rule here is “my house needs to be at least a foot taller and bigger then my neighbors’”. And so it began! Interestedly, of the 3800 official residents of Nizhnya Apsha less then 15% live here – instead they now live and work in Italy and France and Spain or even Russia, and just sending money home to build bigger and grander palaces that stand mostly empty and “under construction”.